Chris has written a really interesting post about venues, the experience of going to things and the way venues and events could make themselves more interesting and useful by better using digital stuff.
It's prompted me to finally write something that's been wobbling around my head for a while - the benefits of the kind of benign "taste stalking" you can do with things like upcoming, last.fm and twitter. If I was going to slot it into Chris's breakdown of the different experiences I think I'd called it 'sharing the discovery'.
That's probably over-complicating things. What I mean in practise is this:
I've found a few people online who seem to have similar tastes to mine, but better and more enthusiastic. They're much more likely to seek interesting events out, they're better informed about what's coming up and what's likely to be good and they're more energetic about actually going to them. Their concert-going taste is like mine but better. And what upcoming lets me do is ride their coat-tails to event happiness. I don't have to religiously read Time Out and comb through upcoming I just keep an eye on what they're going to, and I go to some of the same things. (Which is why it feels slightly like stalking, and now I write it down maybe it's more creepy than I realise, hmm, maybe I should stop.)
I do the same thing on Last.fm. There are a few people who's taste seems to be similar to mine but again, they're just that little bit more into a particular genre, they're more informed, more dedicated. And Last let's me sample what they're listening to. They're a taste surrogate for me. I've found a lot of good music that way. It's like listening to tapes in your mates bedroom when you're 14.
I've realised that I also do this with political opinion, I simply don't feel informed enough about so many issues to know what I think about them, so I just find someone who I tend to agree with on the big things and then make them an opinion surrogate. For a long time my political opinion surrogate was David Aaronovitch but then I read this interview with Dave Rowntree and realised I agreed with everything he said, so maybe it'll be him from now on.
The beauty of services like last and upcoming is that other people's enthusiasms and expertise can be turned into gifts without them having to do any extra work. There doesn't seem to be an equivalent for books, or am I missing something?
I think of this aspect of the gift economy as social slipstreaming. We're all like members of the peloton, it works because everyone takes turns to be upfront battling through and everyone slipstreams from their efforts. Everyone takes a turn, everyone contributes, that's how it works. Your enthusiasms, your interests are your contribution. I guess mine is cafes, I hope that's enough.
Hmm. I'm not sure I'm saying anything new here, just making up jargon, but it's passing the time while the kettle boils.